Apr 2, 2009

Press release of the "First Archi Brigade"

Please find below the press release, dated March 31, by the “First Archi Brigade” (Prva Arhi Brigada) in an English translation. Original: here.

“We are the first Archi Brigade, a spontaneously gathered informal group of students of architecture and others who share the same ideas, generated from the need to express our opinions - both the positive and the negative - regarding already existing and yet planned architectural and urban works in our city. We were formed guided by the inclination to take a proactive role in the designing of the architectural reality of today, which, as the future generation of architects in Macedonia, will become our architectural heritage.

As students, we have a positive attitude toward the construction of works which we consider modern and aesthetically and conceptually proper, and we welcome any development in this direction. As such we wish to single out, above all, the [new designs for the] Drama Theatre and the Philharmonic. Nonetheless, we cannot, and we do not want to, close our eyes to the fact that in our city the placement and building of [new] structures is done in a completely wrong manner that leads to the successive damaging of the city centre. Instead of having urban solutions that are a result of public and expert debates and ensure the most adequate solution for the location and the buildings that constitute the centre, we have insufficiently transparent bids and implementation of dilettante solutions that are totally in contradiction with all that we have learned by now about architecture and urbanisation.

On Saturday, we decided to express our revolt with peaceful protest by gathering on the location designated for the planned building. The protest was public and announced to the police according to the regulations. Time and place were announced through the media, and the attendance was open. We are shocked and deeply upset by the actions that took place on Saturday at the city square “Macedonia”.

Opposed to the peaceful, democratic protest of a group of less than 150 people in an announced location and time, we faced a huge mob of furious and aggressive people. Although we then moved the protest close to the embankment of the river Vardar, far away from the mob, with aim to avoid any contacts whatsoever, they attacked our peaceful protest with aggression, threats, curses, and physical violence, and within a minute they terminated the protest and injured several of the participants. Such prevention of the students to exercise their constitutional rights to peacefully express their position, as one of the highest values of a society we are aiming to attain, is something we truly hope will never happen again.

We strongly condemn the violence and those who attacked us and denied us our democratic right to peaceful protest. Therefore, we demand and we truly believe that this time the relevant institutions will efficiently and professionally carry out their job and sanction the perpetrators who violated the law and committed the violence.

We also wish to send a message to our respected Rector pertaining to his comments as to certain “letters” and the denial of our status as students at the University, who chose a democratic way to express their opinions and positions in the sphere of their direct professional interest: the sooner, the better, by correcting the statement in respect to our institutional belonging, he will demonstrate the care for the students and their rights which the relevant institutions should continuously protect and consistently practice for all of us. Where the correspondence that “alienated” us from the university got stuck, we do not know, nor does it matter; or at least, not as much as the correction that we are expecting. The same applies to all those who, from reasons unknown to us, tried to discredit us as a group of people with relevant position, gained during the years of studying in the institution that is directly responsible for our academic development and positions.

The first Archi Brigade also strongly condemns the attempts of some political subjects, who tried to misconstrue the honest approach of the students of architecture and their determination [to fight] for active participation, and [mis]used the unpleasant event for daily political battles with their political opponents.

Because of the undesired dimension that this event gained, our main message was left unheard and not understood. We stood up to fight for architecture in Skopje, for a better tomorrow, and in this particular case, to generally prevent the damaging of the oldest city squares which we have to preserve for future generations. None of us there had as an aim to protest the building of a church. Simply and officially, we think that the location chosen for that structure does not correspond to the architectural and urban conditions of the space.

We will not give up on our love for the city or architecture, nor will we give up on the state as a defender of our democratic rights. We will continue to be committed to raise public awareness for what we believe is, from an architectural and urban perspective, a negative tendency in the city. We will continue to fight for our cause.”

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